People with Fibro are True Heroes!

I believe that people with Fibromyalgia are true heroes. This is why.

Being that I’m 57 years old, I grew up during the Viet Nam war era. There were always stories about POW’s who, as the war ended, were released and the chilling information about their ordeals were revealed. The similarities between the POW’s and Fibromyalgia sufferers are striking.

1 The POW’s were kept totally isolated, with no contact or communication with others. Fibromyalgia is a very isolating illness. As so many people cannot understand what you’re going through, you tend to feel isolated from friends, family and workers. Many with fibro never leave the house, some never leave their bed.

2 The POW’s were subjected to horrendous pain via torture. People with Fibromyalgia are also the victims of horrible pain which can be totally debilitating.

3 The POW’s never knew what would happen from day to day. Fibro sufferers also never know how their symptoms will play out from day to day. One day you might feel okay, go out and do some errands, the next day you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck

4 The POW’s were sleep deprived, the lights were on 24 hours a day, and if they fell asleep, they were immediately woken up. Fibro sufferers deal with insomnia and fatigue, sleeping can be impossible as they are up all night. during the day they are very fatigued, but can’t really sleep. Twisting, turning, getting out of bed, getting back into bed, trying to sleep can be a real nightmare!

5 The POW’s were experimented on with different type of drugs to destroy their resolve. People with fibro are going from one med to the next, always trying to find the combination that can give them some relief. Many don’t work and the side effects are horrendous, others work for a period of time and stop. It’s like the merry-go-round, one med to the next, always hoping to find the right combination that will yield some relief.

If Fibromyalgia does not totally destroy your life, it certainly dramatically disrupts it.  The fact is that unless you’ve lived in a fibro body, a non sufferer will never understand what living with Fibromyalgia is. The courage I find from the people I meet with Fibro is astounding. They push themselves, they keep looking for answers, they do their best to maintain a normal life and to be their for their families and friends. It’s frustrating and disheartening at times , yet they persevere.Fibro sufferers have tremendous resolve! People with Fibromyalgia really are true Heroes!

Psychotherapy and Fibromyalgia Part 3

Remember, the definition of psychotherapy is: intentional interpersonal relationship used by trained psychotherapists to aid a client or patient in problems of living and to help attain a better sense of well being.

If you do some research, you’ll find that there are between 50 and 100 different types of psychotherapy, but don’t get overwhelmed, Lets just talk about a couple of main approaches.

1 Psychoanalysis: Developed by Sigmund Freud in the late 1800’s, it’s basic idea is that human behaviors are determined by irrational drives which are largely subconscious. The basic treatment in a general sense is to work through and come to terms with these subconscious thoughts.

2 Behavioral Modification Therapy: In a general sense, a way of modifying human behavior through a series of rewards and punishments.

3 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: a very common approached used today and used quite often with people suffering from Fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses.: It strives to solve problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure.

I realize that these are all fancy words and might be too difficult to understand, but psychotherapy takes much training and study by the psychotherapist to be able to practice it effectively. After all, the human mind is very complicated.

When dealing with a chronic illness, a good psychotherapist can be a godsend by helping you to deal with symptoms, deal with your emotions and see things from a different point of view. Just the act of speaking with another person who really understands can be very cathartic.

So what can you expect when you see a Psychotherapist for the first time. Most will do some form of History, possibly medical and also emotional, some might use questionnaires and ask many questions until they determine a diagnosis. This might take one or two or sometimes mores sessions to gather the needed info. They will than create a treatment approach and plan and the work will begin.

Remember, if you don’t feel an affinity for the practitioner, even after 2 or more visits, it is perfectly okay to state this and than move on. A good psychotherapist will also recognize this and never pressure you to stay.



Psychotherapy and Fibromyalgia Part 2

How do you find a good psychotherapist?

Many of you have been referred to a psychiatrist by your doctors and perhaps you have had a bad experience. You’ve been told that the illness doesn’t exist or it is in your head. However, there are many other ways to find a right psychotherapist. and a good one can be very helpful, even a godsend when you are suffering from an illness like Fibromyalgia.

First, you might ask your friends or colleagues for a recommendation. These days, many more people than you think are in Therapy.

Second, you might call some of the associations: American Psychological Association, the American association for Marriage and Family therapy, Association of Clinical Social Workers etc. There are many other associations in each county, state and country. A Google search will generally show the many groups and associations..

Third, The good old Yellow Pages will have pages of listings under: Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Family Therapy, Counseling, etc.

Now that you have names, what should you do? I would call the practitioner. Chances are you might get the answering machine, so leave a message to have them call you and explain how you’re interested in beginning therapy. When they return the call, speak to them for 15 minutes, Ask how long they’ve practiced, do they have experience with Fibromyalgia, P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and/or dealing with chronic illnesses. If you feel good about this person, ask to schedule a 1/2 hour appointment to speak to the therapist in person. Explain how you’d like to see if you and this therapist will be a good fit. (Hint, most times, you should not have to pay for this consultation).

Visit the practitioner and again, see how “the fit” is. Do you feel an affinity, are you comfortable; go with your instinct. If the answer is no, thank the person and move on. There are no shortages of therapists. It might take you 2 or 3 tries or more, but eventually you’ll find the right one. Never settle! Don’t be discouraged. As I had said before, in all professions there are the good and not so good.

A good Therapist can tremendously help you and make life bearable, especially when dealing with a chronic illness.

Next: Types of Psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy and Fibromyalgia Part 1

A fact of life is that in all professions, there are the good and the bad. This goes for Docs, Attorneys, Accountants and Psychotherapists.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about Psychotherapy, for a number of reasons.

First, there is still that stigma that exists: (“why do I need therapy, I’m not crazy”)

Second, Many of you folks with Fibromyalgia have been referred to a psychiatrist and unfortunately many have been told that the illness is “in your head”. (Nothing could be farther from the truth.)

Third, You’ve seen the wrong psychotherapist, who either did not know what they were doing or did not understand Fibro or possibly was practicing the wrong type of therapy for you and your situation. (Every person is different and has different needs).

Fourth, There are so many different types of professionals practicing psychotherapy, that it at times becomes difficult to know who is who and what is what. Lets clear up number four and lets get a definition of psychotherapy which is clear and understandable.

Psychotherapy, or personal counseling with a psychotherapist, is an intentional interpersonal relationship used by trained professionals  to aid a client or a patient  in problems of living. It aims to increase the individual’s sense of their own well-being. As we all come across these types of problems in our day to day lives, psychotherapy is not just for the mentally ill.

What are the different types of Psychotherapists?

A Psychiatrist is a practitioner who attended 4 years of Medical school and than did a residency of generally 3 years in Psychiatry/Psychology.

A Psychologist is a practitioner who attend graduate school and received a PhD in Psychology (generally 5 years)

There are also different practitioners with different levels of study such as the Counselor with a Masters in Psychology or Counseling, the Clinical Social Worker who might also have a PhD or a Masters in Social Work with an emphasis in Therapy/Counseling and  many others with different degrees. The titles of these practitioners will vary from State to state in the U.S, but the one thing that all of the above have in common is that they are continually taking courses, attending seminars and reading to further their skills. A person does not need to be a psychologist to be a skillful and excellent psychotherapist.

Next: Choosing the Right Psychotherapist.

Fibromyalgia and Emotional Support

Let’s face, it, Fibro is pretty isolating, and can be emotionally devastating. You feel so sick that you really don’t want to be around others. You get tired of having people ask you the same questions, or of people who just haven’t a clue as to what you’re going through. Add this stress on to the stress of being ill and the situation becomes almost impossible.

Emotional support from family, friends and others is essential for the person suffering from Fibromyalgia. It will not cure it, but lack of support or even abuse will make matters worse.

I have no statistics to back up the next statement, but at least 10% of the women I see for consultations are battered and this can be emotionally, physically, sexually and or mentally. I always do a consultation with both spouses present because i want to see how the non-sick spouse is interacting with the Fibro patient. If I see the signs of battering, I won’t accept that person as a patient.

The Fibro sufferer must have good emotional support during the illness and certainly while undergoing treatment in my office. There will be times they need plenty of rest, the family needs to pitch in to help with the cooking  house work, and the shopping.

The good news is that the majority of spouses are very supportive but think about this for a minute. Imagine the husband whose most important person in his life is his wife, whom he loves with all his heart. He sees his wife suffering and there isn’t a thing he can do. He watches her go from doctor to doctor, use this med and that med, sees very little results and still there is not a thing he can do. This has a tremendous emotional effect on him. We men are conditioned to be the caretakers and providers (I know this is politically incorrect), but it is true. When we can’t do a thing to help our wives, we feel helpless and angry.

The bottom line is that Fibro not only affects the sufferer, but also the family members, perhaps not symptom wise, but emotionally just as badly.

For the abused sufferer, get help immediately and take steps to change the situation, for the non-abused sufferer (though it might be difficult), try to see the situation through your spouse’s eyes. You’ll be amazed at the toll Fibro can play on the family members.

What Triggers Fibromyalgia Part 4

Another of the triggers of Fibromyalgia fall more into a miscellaneous category with one thing in common. This is having your head and neck in extension for a prolonged period of time. In English, this means having your head looking in an up position (as if you were watching fireworks or an air show).

There are a number of ways this can happen and more often than not they lead to a flare (for people with Fibro), or  these can trigger the onset of Fibro.


Dental surgery, where your head is in this position while the Dentist is working on your teeth.

An exercise class where you are told to stretch your neck in different positions.

The Beauty Salon, where your head is being washed in the sink and, of course, your head is pushed back and upward.

A Chiropractic adjustment where your head and neck are twisted into that same position.

A physical therapy session, where again, the therapist is having you do stretches that cause this extension.

These are some of the situations where this might arise and it is best to avoid having your head in this position, at all costs. Dentists, Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, Beauticians can easily modify what they do to take this into account, but it is up to you to be aware of it and inform the person that you need to avoid that position.

Would you like to write a book with me?

We all know that one of the major problems with Fibromyalgia is:

  • Your friends, families, employers and even your Docs just have no clue as to what you are going through.
  • People can be demeaning, downright rude and misinterpret your actions, because they cannot see how ill you really are.

Well, we are about to change that, here is my plan:


We are going to write a book, yes I said WE!

And to make it more fun, let’s have a contest.

  • The best story will win a new iPad 2!!!
  • Now that’s gotta make you feel better!

I’m going to ask you to send me your best Fibro Story (s).  The story(s) should be about a page long.

The story can be about anything you like, for example:

  • Pain
  • Fog
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • How it has affected your life
  • How it has changed your life
  • Experiences with Doctors
  • The good, the bad, the ugly
  • Whatever you feel you’d like to write

I will even post your photo on Facebook announcing your “winner status”.

Now here’s the really good part:

I will compile the stories into a book which I will have published. With your help and your stories, I’m sure WE can turn it into a best seller!

Another really really good part!

  • We will get the Book into the hands of the public who will finally begin to understand what Fibromyalgia is and how it affects us!
  • The more the public knows; the more pressure on the medical establishment to find a solution!
  • This would help to end the doctors telling us that it is in our heads.
  • Finally this debilitating illness will be taken seriously.

But I’m saving the best part for last!

Any and all profits from the book will be placed in a non-profit organization to provide healthcare, meds, and doctor’s visits for those with no insurance or those who have no money. “It’s like becoming a published author, winning an iPad 2 and having a medical trust fund” all at once. Is this a great idea or what?”

Some Guidelines:

  • Hurry, though because I can only take stories through July 15 so

e-mail me your one page story(s) to or snail mail to me at:

Dr. Gene Martin

520 South El Camino Real

Suite 520

San Mateo, California 94402

  • We all know it’s better to laugh than to cry so please feel free to find the humor in your story.
  • Remember, the last day to get your story to me is by midnight July 15, 2011.
  • I will announce the winner on July 31, 2011.
  • Your Story (s) may be submitted in English or Spanish

Let’s band together and make the public

and doctors aware, once in for all, what

Fibromyalgia is really about. The More noise

we make, the more will be done to help get

rid of this dreaded illness!

What Triggers Fibromyalgia Part 3

As mentioned in the first post on triggers, traumas play a large part in the triggering of Fibromalgia. I’d like to specifically speak about Auto accidents.

Whiplash injures (even the name) has become a joke. The malingerer who yells whiplash etc. The fact of the matter is that a Whiplash injury is serious and ligaments and muscles in the neck and other parts of the body are pulled and torn to different degrees. This can lead to general instability in the neck and nervous system, among other parts of the body. Generally the most common immediate symptoms are headaches, stiffness pain and fatigue. However it is very well studied that symptoms can appear weeks and even months later. This is one of the reasons why Insurance companies are so eager to settle a claim as fast as possible. They are than off the hook.

I’ve, many times, seen the auto accident victims, where the claims has been closed but the symptoms start worsening over time and ultimately turn into Fibromyalgia. Therefore, I advise you never to settle a claim right away, no matter how much you are pressured by an insurance company or an attorney. Don’t let them dangle money in front of you as an incentive to settle the case. Wait at least a year.

Don’t be afraid to fight with the doc who says that you cannot be inured or that there is no relationship between an auto injury and Fibro, this is just plain wrong. Get another opinion, in fact demand another opinion. You are within your rights.

Many times the accident victim will be sent for an independent opinion to another doctor. This is called an I.M.E. (Independent Medical Evaluation). I strongly advise you to bring a friend or relative to the exam and have he or she in the room during the history and examination. If the Doctor refuses this, turn around and leave. You have every right to have another person in the room with you. Remember that Doctors who are paid by insurance companies to do these exams might have a conflict of interest. It is to their benefit to downplay the symptoms to make the insurance company happy. After all the insurance company is paying their bills. By the way, if you can’t bring a friend, bring a voice recorder and record the entire session, from history to exam. If the doctor says no, or you can’t immediately leave.

It is vitally important to do all that is necessary so you recover properly from an injury and so it does not ultimately trigger Fibromyalgia.

Lastly, the notion of a Whiplash injury being totally healed in 6 weeks is plain nonsense. It usually takes much longer than that and a person is never really 100% healed. With proper rehabilitation, they can get most of the way, but when there are any types of injuries to the body, there will always be some residual weakness. Think of the scar when you cut yourself. Scar tissue is never as strong as the original tissue.

Dr. Gene

What Triggers Fibromyalgia Part 2

In some people there seems to be a genetic propensity for Fibromyalgia, not all people, just some. Please note that if you have Fibro, it does not mean that your children will get it. On the other hand if you have that genetic possibility, it still doesn’t not mean your child would get it, unless the child goes through a number of traumas and or stresses. Than he/she would be more likely than a child where the genes were not a factor.

I have seen identical twins in my office, both with Fibro except one girl started having symptoms at 9 years old and the other girl and 19 years old. There were long histories of physical traumas in both cases (falling off horses, contact sports, and some general teenage craziness).

I’ve also seen identical twins where one had Fibro pretty severely while the other had no sign of fibro at all.

One thing I hear again and again is that my adult Fibro patients told me that when they were children, they had pain in the legs and the doctors just dismissed it as growing pains. Thus if your child exhibits those symptoms, I would absolutely think Fibromyalgia and have him/her checked out. Hopefully it’s not Fibro!

Another trigger appears to be surgeries, when you are put to sleep under general anesthesia. I spoken to many many people who relayed that when they woke up they were either in severe pain and their fibro was flaring very badly, or they woke up with Fibro pain which they were experiencing for the first time. Than the rest of the symptoms started over the next days.

All general anesthesia implies a risk to life, though small, and a risk for flaring if you have fibro. If it can be avoided with a local, the better off you might be.

More Tomorrow in Part 3

What Triggers Fibromyalgia? Part 1

Perhaps the most common trigger I see and have seen for years is trauma/stress. This can be one large trauma (bad auto accident), or many small traumas over a period of time. Continual stress also adds to the equation. An example would be nursing a loved one for years through cancer or other illness. The stress is so intense and you become so involved that you really don’t notice it.

Think of it as an empty glass, Each time you encounter stress or a trauma you’re adding more water to the glass. Ultimately the water level reaches the top and starts spilling over. This is when you begin to experience the symptoms of Fibromyalgia.

From my experiences in the office, I always ask about prior traumas/stress. Sometimes there are enough to fill pages, other times, the patient cannot remember any incidents. I usually tell them that over time they will begin to remember and this is invariably the case.

Stress/trauma can be physical, emotional, sexual  or mental or a combination of any of these.

We’ve probably all know someone who was injured at work or in a car accident. Even though the person was showing symptoms, the company doctors or insurance companies would claim that the person could not have been injured and the benefits would be cut. (We know that the underlying job of an insurance company is to collect premiums and payout as little as possible. The difference being the profit.).The patients are now cut off from care, their symptoms increase and ultimately Fibromyalgia rears it’s head. (I’ve seen this again and again).

For you fibro sufferers, try to think back in time. the trauma could have occurred as a child playing sports, falling off a horse, an accumulation of minor fender benders etc. Think of divorce, problems at work, problems with parents etc.

I’ve also seen over time (though I have no statistics to back this up), that approximately 10% of women with Fibromyalgia who I meet are emotionally (and sometimes physically) battered by their husbands. I can usually see this in the attitude of the husband who is very bossy, barks out orders to the wife and is not interested in the consultation, sometimes going as far as to read a newspaper while the wife and I are speaking. Sometimes the wife will appear to jump when the husband speaks. I’m not a psychologist, but I do know that spousal abuse is a huge problem and much more common than we know.

For those with Fibromyalgia, you’ve probably noticed that stress makes your symptoms flair up, thus it would make sense that trauma/stress can very well be a trigger for Fibromyalgia.

More Triggers in the next post.

Dr. Gene